From The Notebook: Round 12

With the first of the bye rounds in the books, this week’s Notebook will look a little different.

Instead of the usual team focus, it’ll be some individual player analysis* on roles, growth, and how it can help their respective teams.

(*This is mainly because from a team perspective I don’t want to go too Melbourne heavy too early in the season, talking about how injuries keep crippling Fremantle is depressing, and as per the Round 6 Notebook, I’ve banned myself from mentioning Carlton in here again until it’s something positive)

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For those reading via email who see a blank space where there are supposed to be clips, there’ll be a link to click so you can watch and not miss out on anything.

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Trent Bianco

Second gamers shouldn’t have the poise and composure to pull this kick off, right in the middle of three Crows, perfectly weighted with Brody Mihocek not having to break stride the entire way:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to view

It’s already evident Bianco sees the game better than most, which should in theory offset his slight lack of pace depending on how Collingwood opt to build their midfield.

Bianco’s first two games have seen him alternating between that high half-forward role and a wing, usually the introductory place of choice for future midfielders whose skills are their feature:

Assuming Collingwood are going to continue playing this high kick-mark style of the last fortnight – 129 marks against Geelong and 115 against Adelaide – players of Bianco’s ilk who have the capability to open the ground up is going to be vital.

In a player’s first few games, looking at the types of mistakes they make can sometimes be just as illuminating as their positive moments. You can usually split it into two categories – a player not being quite ready for the level just yet and needing more seasoning (i.e. Ollie Henry in Round 1), or a player who sees things unfolding, but is a half-step behind the pace of AFL footy.

Bianco is very much in the latter, which means those mistakes will melt away with more time at the top level. Here’s a perfect example from his debut:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to watch

Everything was to script until the pressure came; pressure Bianco hasn’t had to deal with yet in his footballing life. In time, as he becomes more comfortable against the bigger bodies and the speed of play, that becomes a clean link in the chain – whether via handball or tap on – rather than a turnover. There looks to be plenty to work with from a promising starting point for Collingwood.

(And by the way, what is his actual height? It differs between 178 and 188 centimetres depending on where you look.)

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If you’ve missed any of the previous editions of Monday’s Notebook, you can catch up by clicking here and scrolling through the season so far:

From The Notebook, 2021 (and 2020)

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Nik Cox

Reports suggest Cox is 200 centimetres tall and plays on the wing, which is quite impressive because that would make him tall and also able to run.

In all seriousness though, his role has played a large part in why Essendon can look so threatening going forward.

When the Bombers move the ball, especially in transition, a feature of their play is being a full-ground team which looks to make use of their wings wherever possible.

Having Cox as a winger is valuable in a number of ways:

1. The opposing winger has to respect Cox
2. In turn that opens the ground up for others streaming forward
3. Key forwards don’t have to press up as often to be an outlet because Cox is 200 centimetres tall (not a height joke, I swear)
4. Holding shape ahead of the ball means better structure when the ball does enter the forward half

In lieu of a one-clip-fits-all approach from Round 12, let’s go back to Round 10 where there is:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to watch

Who knows where Cox will eventually settle in as his prime position of choice. It’s tempting to pigeonhole him as tall guy who’s not a key defender, therefore automatic forward. But there are enough physical gifts at his disposal where if he can continue to develop on his current trajectory, it looms as a unique career.

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For those who have missed any North Melbourne recaps and ruminations from the last month, you can catch up here:

Round 9 v Hawthorn
Round 10 v Essendon
Round 11 v St Kilda
What to take out of the first half-season

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Josh Treacy

Before I get too carried away with things, it’s important to remember Treacy has only been in the system six months as a rookie draft pick, which makes him a long way off the finished product. That being said…

If we’re to assume Matthew Taberner and Rory Lobb are locks in Fremantle’s forward set up, there’s still a need for someone to bridge the gap between that duo and the ground level players.

Treacy’s skill set – a hard lead-up forward, still an aerial presence and not a non-factor when the ball hit the ground – fills a gaping chasm in Fremantle’s forward line.

Too often when Fremantle get stuck in mud with their ball movement it’s because they lack types who can attract attention with their leading patterns. Forwards who can do that – and mark well – are vital because they can bend an opposition defensive structure, which then creates soft spots and gaps elsewhere on the field.

Against the Bulldogs, Treacy flashed plenty of glimpses. There was this chase down on Hayden Crozier:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to watch

A demanding lead, controlling his space regardless of Bailey Dale’s attempt to cut out the pass from Nat Fyfe:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to watch

And a solid looking set shot routine and ball drop, with no glaring flaws standing out on first viewing:

For those who can’t view the video, click here to watch

Of course for Treacy to continue his development, he’ll have to figure out a way to avoid the Fremantle injury curse. But with another season or two under his belt, he can become a consistent presence to a side crying out for what he can provide.

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